by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Originally published on:
U.S. Army M8E2 Munitions Carrier and 8” Howitzer
Kit No: 333
Box No.: 333-350
Aurora was one of the pioneers of plastic modeling. Their large series of standardized 1/48 scale models of aircraft and armor evolved from toy models into models as miniature prototypes that we expect today. However, Aurora’s star dimmed and some of their models were issued under the K&B logo. Eventually Aurora died. Some of their molds were acquired and reissued by other companies. Monogram’s 1/48 F-111, A-7, Fokker D.VII, Sopwith Camel and Se-5a are Aurora models. It was reported that Monogram bought the lion’s share of the Aurora tooling but that most molds were destroyed in a train wreck in the late 1970s.
Aurora has never been considered in the same league as Tamiya, but some of their 1/48 armor produced in the 1960s is as good, if not better, than what Tamiya released at that time. Their PzKpfw V Panther, PzKpfw VI Tiger II, IS-3 (or T-10 ?) Stalin, and M-46 Patton are considered toys in need of complete rebuilding. Aurora’s M8E2 Munitions Carrier and 8” Howitzer were fair models and definitely some of the cooler models Aurora gave the modeling world! Your reviewer offers mainly photographs and defers to you, as to whether that still holds true.
M8 High-Speed Tractor (from the Aurora instructions):
‘In the beginning, near the dawn of time, men had only primitive means of hunting and fighting. The methods of warfare were limited, and the size and weight of weapons could not exceed certain dimensions. This was largely due to the methods of transporting the weapons to the line of battle, and the type of terrain to be crossed.
Eventually, mankind expanded their campaigns, and began to use larger Weapons. Catapults were employed to hurl large missiles of stone into fortresses, and these catapults were massive and heavy. Much manpower and many horses were required to move these weapons forward into battle formation, and perhaps the meaning of "horsepower" came into being.
‘In the course of time better education and knowledge helped men harness "horsepower" with the development of the combustion engine. The more powerful the engine became, the greater the "horsepower". The greater the "horsepower" the easier to pull larger weapons. Now men could build heavier and more powerful weapons, because of the stronger equipment available to move weapons. One such piece of equipment is the M8E2 Munitions Carrier or Cargo Tractor. It is a tremendous piece of equipment and amazingly compact for the jobs it is capable of performing. The length is 22'1", the width 10’10", height of 10'; and the gross weight approaches 55,000 pounds. Here indeed is strength and versatility in one unit. This Cargo Tractor with its track width of 21" could easily span a ditch of 7 feet, has the ability of making a full pivot when turning, and can ford a stream or river up to three and a half feet deep.
‘With two forward speeds it could reach forty miles per hour, and the cruising range is 180 miles. In the rear of the tractor hull is located a winch with a capacity of 45,000 pounds. A fuel capacity of 225 gallons supplies the six-cylinder, horizontally opposed, air cooled, overhead valve Continental engine, rated as having a gross horsepower of 500 at 2,800 rpm. This full track-laying, high-speed, prime mover is designed for towing artillery loads of 18,000 to 32,000 pounds. It has a platform payload capacity of 15,000 pounds for transporting ammunition, miscellaneous cargo, or personnel over all types of terrain. Capable of being transported anywhere by air, it can be used on highways or cross country travel, or where mountains, sand, swamps or unbridged trenches may be encountered. It can climb slopes as steep as 30 degrees, and is equipped to operate in extreme temperatures of from 65 degrees below zero to 125 degrees above. A bulldozer blade is attached to the front of the hull. A .50 caliber machine gun is turret mounted on top of the cab.
‘The M8E2 is a fine example of how advanced technology has thus contributed greatly to mankind's ability of moving greater weapons over rougher obstacles.’ 
8 inch Howitzer M1/M115 (again from the instructions)
I have added two photos of a built example generously provided by Mr. Jerry Stanfield.
‘The 8" Howitzer rides on a split-trailed carriage equipped with a four-wheeled bogie assembly. This assembly allows the carriage to be lowered into firing position or to raise the Howitzer for transportation from place to place. When the carriage is in motion, air brakes are employed, and when parked a mechanical brake system is used. Designed to allow fire control in any direction, a removable circular firing platform has been installed. This carriage is versatile in that the 8" Howitzer can be interchanged with a 155MM "Long Tom" whenever desired.’ 
...and from Wikipedia:
The M115 203 mm howitzer, also known as the M115 8 inch howitzer, was a towed howitzer used by the United States Army. Until the 1950s it was designated the 8 inch Howitzer M1. The original design started in 1919 but lapsed until resurrected in 1927 as a partner-piece for a new 155 mm gun. It was standardized as 8 inch Howitzer M1 in 1940. The M115/M1 was towed by the M35 Prime Mover gun tractor or a Mack 7⅓ ton 6x6 truck.
The M115 owes some of its origins to the British BL 8 inch Howitzer of the First World War, using the same Welin screw for the breech. The carriage was the same as used for the US 155 mm gun, and was also adopted by the British for their 7.2 inch Mark 6 howitzer. The British 8 inch howitzer was produced both in England and under license in the US for the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I as the 8-inch Howitzer MK. VI. It was in service with the US Army until replaced by the M115. There are no reports of the MK. VI or other marks being used during World War II.
The first photos of the M115 type 8 inch cannon on its redesigned carriage appeared in 1931, but development was slowed by the Great Depression.
The M115 saw service in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Croatia War. In the late 1950s it was adopted in small numbers by several NATO armies to fire the W33 (M454 shell) and later the W79 nuclear artillery shell, a role which ended when the smallest types of tactical nuclear weapons were removed from service and eliminated.
The howitzer fired separate loading, bagged charge ammunition, with seven different propelling charges, from 1 (the smallest) to 7 (the largest). The M454 Nuclear shell had its own M80 cartridge with three propelling charges. 
The Model(s)First, the instruction sheet and box list 1973 as the model date. Although I don’t know about the howitzer, Aurora issued the munitions carrier separately in several phases: a long thin box, the sturdy square box with dramatic box art, and in this set. I don’t know if it came out in the 1970's small box that featured a photo of the built models.
I won’t try to describe this vintage kit in great detail - instead I’ll let the photos do the talking. The kit consists of around 200 parts of hard olive styrene (including seven figures), a pair of vinyl rubber band tracks, and vinyl rubber tires. Unfortunately, many parts were off the sprues; I attempted to arrange them per subcomponent.
The parts vary between sharp and soft molding. Many suffer from seam lines and ejector marks, some sinkholes, and flash. There is no texture on the metal surfaces. No attempt was made to simulate any weld seams.
The figures have soft detail and mold marks. Their detail quality is pictured for you to judge. One has a separate arm. In the late 1960s Aurora made vacuform terrain display bases and created square boxes to accommodate them. There isn’t one with this kit and I don’t know if this set was released with one.
DetailingDetail is molded on the cab and hull surfaces. Some detail is separate for you to add, such as horns and headlamps; some is molded on, like shovels and engine compartment screens.
Aurora made some features to be movable:
• Cannon can be adjusted into traveling and firing positions
• Opening cannon breech door
• Elevating and traversing cannon
• Tractor dozer blade
• Tractor munitions tray
Decals, Instructions and PaintingAurora included markings for one tractor: Army Quartermaster Corps registration number 520741, unit bumper code 8th Army, 477th Field Artillery Battalion, B Company, 31th vehicle. The howitzer number is B-28.
The instructions are an accordion-fold of illustrations and photographs. The models are assembled in 14 well designed steps. Included is a nice history of the equipment, plus ads for IPMS and an Aurora catalog.
Painting directions are simplistic.
ConclusionThese models show up for sale online and at shows from time to time. Depending on the issue and box, prices vary dramatically. For those with a critical eye, detail references, and patience, these models can be improved. They aren’t bad although they certainly aren’t up to the level of Tamiya or Bandai models of the period. Unless you need this post-war set for a diorama and are willing to put the time and effort into it, the U.S. Army M8E2 Munitions Carrier and 8” Howitzer set is mainly worth having for nostalgia and fun.
References, . Aurora Products Corp. West Hempstead, N.Y. 11552. M8E2 Munitions Carrier and 8” Howitzer . 1973.
. Wikipedia. M115 howitzer. [Web.] 20 May 2012.
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